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Wednesday 23rd of October 2019
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Concerning the Path of Knowledge and the Way to Paradise:

At the outset it should be known that the sciences are absolutely divisible into two kinds. One of these are the worldly sciences, whose ultimate purpose is to achieve worldly aims. The other are the sciences of the Hereafter, whose ultimate purpose is attainment of malakuti stations and degrees and reaching the other-worldly stations. Earlier it was pointed out that the distinction between these two kinds of sciences depends for the most part on the distinction between intentions and purposes (behind their pursuit), although they in themselves are divisible into the two kinds. From the viewpoint of appropriateness, the effects described in the noble tradition in relation to the pursuit of knowledge and the learned evidently correspond to the second type of knowledge, the knowledge of the Hereafter.

It was also mentioned earlier that all the sciences of the Hereafter are included in three categories. They either pertain to the knowledge of God and doctrines (ma'arif), or to spiritual instruction and wayfaring towards God, or to the laws and precepts of servitude. Now we say that the development (ta'mir) of life in the Hereafter depends on these three aspects, and hence there are three kinds of paradise: the Garden of Essence, which is the ultimate goal of the knowledge of Allah and the divine doctrinal truths; the Garden of attributes, which is the goal of self-purification and the disciplining of the soul; and thirdly, the Garden of acts, which is the (other-worldly) form of the observance of the duties of servitude as well as its result. Moreover, these gardens are not in a developed state (at the beginning).

Hence, the ground of the Garden of acts is a plain land, like the ground of the soul at the beginning. Their development is subject to the cultivation and flourishing of the soul. Therefore, should the soul in its Hidden aspect be not developed by the means of the divine teachings and the Hidden attractions of the Essence (jadhadt-e ghaybiyyeh-ye dhatiyyeh), man shall not attain to the Garden of the Essence and the Paradise of Tryst (jannat-e liqa'). Should the inner self be unrefined(uncultured) and the soul be unadorned, should the will and determination be not strengthened(toughened) and the heart not receive the radiance of the Names and the Attributes, man will not attain to the Garden of the Names and

the Attributes, which is the middle paradise. Should one fail to observe the duties of servitude, and his acts, works, movements and pauses be not in accordance with the precepts of the divine Law, one will not attain to the Garden of Acts, concerning which this has been said:

Therein being whatever the souls desire, and the eyes delight in. (43:71)

On the basis of these preliminaries, which are in accordance with philosophical proofs, the experience of the gnostics, and the traditions of the prophets and the awliya'-may peace be upon them-in addition to being inferable from the Noble divine Scripture, the sciences-whatever their level, whether they pertain to the ma'arif or something else are a path for reaching the Garden appropriate to each of them, and the wayfarer of each of the paths of knowledge is a traveller on one of the paths of Paradise. We have said earlier that knowledge is absolutely the way to action, even the knowledge of the ma'arif; which, however, involves the actions of the heart and inward gravitations, the result and inward forms of which are the Garden of the Essence and the Paradise of Tryst. Hence the pursuit of the path of knowledge is the pursuit of the way leading to the path of Paradise, and the way to a path is also part of the path.

An Important Point:

That journey on the path of knowledge has been ascribed to the creature and the movement towards the Garden to the Sacred Divine Essence (in the phrase) is for the reason that on the level of multiplicity the acquisitive aspect of the creature has been given predominance, whereas on the level of return to unity the Divine aspect has been made to prevail. From another viewpoint it may be said that the wayfaring towards the Garden is also ascribable to the creature:

And (in the Hereafter) they shall find all they wrought (in the present life) present. (18:49)

...And whoso has done an atom's weight of good shall see it, and whoso has done an atom's weight of evil shall see it. (99:7-8)

The authority amongst the philosophers and the pride of the righteous sect, Sadr al-Muta'allihin-may God be pleased with him-has made statements in this regard indicating that the perception of favourable and repulsive things is by itself heaven and hell, and the `knowledge' pertains to things favourable to the soul and `ignorance' to those which are incompatible with it. This contradicts his own view as expressed in his philosophical works, where he has refuted the belief of Shaykh Ghazali-as is narrated from him-that holds paradise and hell to be the pleasures and pains felt by the soul and denies their objective existence. This belief, besides being contrary to the proofs of the philosophers, is against the traditions of the prophets and the celestial scriptures, as well as the teachings of all the religions, and that great philosopher has himself refuted it and shown its invalidity. But that honoured personage has himself made similar statements in this relation, although he basically rejects Ghazali's belief. In any case, these statements do not appear to be appropriate in my humble opinion, though any further elaboration of this matter is not appropriate for these pages.

2. Section: Concerning the Angels' Spreading their Wings for the Seekers of Knowledge:

Know chat the angels are of various kinds and species, and no one has the knowledge of them, who are God's hosts, except the sacred Essence of Him Who knows best the Hidden:

...And none knows the hosts of thy Lord but He. (74:31)

One of their kinds consists of those angels who are totally absorbed in the love of God (muhayyamin-e majdhubin), who have no awareness of the world of being; they know not whether God has created the world or not, and are immersed in Divine Beauty and Glory and are absorbed in the Majesty of His sacred Essence. It is said that the blessed letter Nun' in the noble verse:

Nun. By the Pen, and what they inscribe, (68:1)

is a reference to them.

Another group of them are the archangels and the inhabitants of the higher jabarut, their being many species of them, each of which has its own specific work and administrative role in the worlds. Another group are the angels of the spheres of the higher malakut and the Upper Gardens (jannat-e `aliyah) and of them there are varied and different kinds. Another group consists of the angels of the spheres of barzakh (the interworld) and mithal (the world of analogies). Another group consists of the angels charged with the affairs of the spheres of nature and mulk, each of whom is encharged with a particular affair and managing function. This group of angels that administers the world of mulk is different from the angels existing in the worlds of barzakh and mithal, as has been established in its proper place and as can also be inferred from traditions.

 

One should know that wings, feathers and other like members are not common to all the kinds of angels. Rather, from the angels absorbed in Divine love to the inhabitants of the higher malakut-all of them are free and devoid of such members and extended parts. They are free from all forms of matter, its properties, essentials, and all that is necessarily associated with it. As to the angels of the worlds of mithal and the malakuti beings of barzakh, it is possible for them to possess parts, members, wings, feathers and the like. Since they pertain to the spheres of barzakhi quantitiesand the mithali analogies, each of them is characterized by a particular quantity, members and organs specific to itself. The verses:

By the rangers ranging ...(37:1)

(Praise belongs to God, Originator of the heavens and earth, who appointed the angels to be messengers) having wings two, three and four... (35:1)

refer to this kind of angels. But as to the archangels (mala'keh-ye muqarrabin) and the inhabitants of the higher jabarut,they can embody themselves in any world in accordance with its form and appearance, due to their encompassing ontic and sustentative character (ihateh-ye wujudiyyeh-ye qaymumiyyeh). Hence Gabriel, the Trustworthy, who is one of the Near Ones to God and the bearer of the divine revelation and amongst the highest of the beings inhabiting the jabarut, incarnated himself continuously for the sacred essence of the Noble Messenger-may Allah's benedictions be upon him and his Progeny--in the world of limited mithal, twice in the world of absolute mithal and occasionally in the world of mulk.Sometimes he would even appear in the form of Dihyah al-Kalbi, who was the foster brother of the Noble Messenger--may Allah's benedictions be upon him and his Progeny-and was the most handsome of men.

One must know that the assumption of mulki form by the angels is not something at the level of the mulki beings, which can be seen by anyone with a sound visual sense. Rather, even then their malakuti aspect prevails over their mulkiaspect, and that is why people could not see them with their corporeal eyes even after their assumption of mulki form. Rather, only some of the Companions could see Gabriel when he appeared in the form of Dihyah al-Kalbi, and then only with God's approval and the leave of the Seal of the Prophets-may Allah's benedictions be upon him and his Progeny.

Hence all the angels of God are benignly disposed towards those of the spiritual progeny of Adam-the elect of God, may peace be upon him, to whom the angels prostrated and whose command was obeyed throughout the realms of being-who seek knowledge and gnosis and, having turned toward God and the truth, tread the path of God's good pleasure, and they (i.e. the angels) are charged with helping and training them. And when this mulki being becomes malakuti, and when this terrestrial creature becomes a celestial one, he walks on the wings of the angels; and should the eyes of hismalakuti and mithali vision open, he would see himself standing on the wings of angels and walking on his path with their assistance. This was concerning those who travel from mink co malakut, though they are still on the way.

As to those who are mulki and have not entered the malakut, it is possible that the inhabitants(residents) of the malakutmay come to their help and, out of humility for them, spread their wings under their feet out of their delight on account of their conduct, as is indicated by this noble hadith from Ghawali al-la'ali:

It is narrated from Miqdad-may God be pleased with him-that he said, "I heard the Messenger of Allah-may Allah's peace and benedictions be upon him and his Progeny-say: 'Verily, the angels spread out their wings for the seeker of knowledge out of their delight for him, so that he walks over them.' " [2]

From this, we come to know that one who takes the first step towards God and His good pleasure, stands over the shoulders of the angels and sits on their wings and this celestial carpet remains until the ultimate stages of acquisition of knowledge and learning. The levels, however, differ, and the angels who are the helpers of this wayfarer change, until he reaches a stage where he puts his feet on the middle of the heads of archangels, and then traverses certain worlds and ascends through certain levels where the way is closed to the archangels and where Gabriel, the one entrusted with delivering Divine revelations, confesses his inability and declares:

Should I approach to the extent of an inch I will be burnt down. [3]

The above description not only does not conflict with philosophical proofs but is in conformity with them and does not stand in need of any interpretation (ta'wil), as has been offered by the sublime philosopher, Sadr al-Muta'allihin, although he himself affirms (the existence of) the angels of the world of mithal and their incarnation in mulk and malakutin his philosophical books and scientific works, with expositions that are unparalleled and exclusive to that honoured personage.        

                                    3. Section: On the Inhabitants(residents)  of the Heaven and Earth Asking Forgiveness for the Seeker of Knowledge:

Know that it is established in its proper place that the reality of being is in toto the Excellences, Names and Attributes of God. Pure existence is pure excellence, and hence God, the Glorious, being pure existence, is the totality of all excellence and all the Names and Attributes of Beauty (jamal) and Glory (jalal). And it is mentioned in hadith that:

Knowledge in its entirety is power in its entirety.

And it has been demonstrated that the mirrored reality of existence is the same as the totality of excellences, from which none of the excellences can possibly be separated. However, the manifestation of those excellences is in accordance with the extent of the vastness or narrowness of a being and the burnish or obscurity of the mirror. In this respect, the entire realm of being comprises the signs of the Essence, and beings are mirrors that reflect the Names and the Attributes. This matter is in conformity with philosophical proofs, or rather there are few issues ofhikmah that equal it in respect of the strength and firmness of its proof. It is also in accordance with the experience of the mystics and the apprehensions of the gnostics, in adding up(addition) to being in conformity with the noble verses of the Sacred Book and the traditions of the pure and infallible Ahl al-Bayt-may peace be upon them. Hence, in several places in the divine Scripture all the existents are mentioned as being engaged in the glorification of God:

All that is in the heavens and the earth magnifies God ....(62:1)

(The seven heavens and the earth, and whosoever in them is, extol Him;) nothing is, that does not proclaim His praise, but you do not understand their extolling. (17:44)

It is quite clear that extolling the perfection (tasbih) and sanctity (taqdis) of God, the Exalted, and praising Him requires the knowledge and gnosis of His sacred station and His Attributes of Beauty and Glory, and these cannot occur where then is no trace of knowledge and gnosis. This sublime fact has been so explicitly mentioned in the noble traditions that there is no room for any interpretation (ta'wil wa tawjih). However, those who dwell in nescience, from among traditional philosophers and dialecticians, from whom the divine truths are veiled, have tried to offer stale interpretations of the words of God which in addition to being contrary to their literal meanings (zawahir) as well as unambiguous verses, in some cases-such as in the story of the ant's speech in the Surat al-Naml-are opposed to many explicit statements narrated from the Infallible Imams-may peace be upon them-besides being against firm metaphysical proofs. However, to engage in the description of that proof and its preliminaries is not fit for these pages.

Hence the existents' extolling of God is on the basis of their consciousness. It is mentioned in a hadith that the Noble Messenger-may God's benedictions be upon him and his Progeny--said: "Before my ministry there was a time when I used to look after the sheep and camels as a shepherd (and there has been no prophet who has not tended the sheep). As I watched them I noticed that all of a sudden they would get alarmed and take to flight without there being anything around that might agitate them. I used to wonder about its reason until Gabriel came to me. On my asking him about it, he said: `The unbeliever (after death) is dealt such a blow that everything that God has created, except mankind and the jinn, get terrified(frightened) on hearing it.' " [4]The `urafa' say that man is the most isolated(secluded) of beings from malakut as long as he is preoccupied with mulk and it cares, and since this preoccupation of his is stronger than that of all other beings, his separation and nescience, as well as his deprivation from attaining to malakut, is greater than that of all others.

Furthermore, all beings have a malakuti aspect by means of which they possess life, consciousness, and all other functions of life. The verse:

Thus We showed Abraham the malakut of the heavens and the earth, so that he might be o f those having sure faith, (6: 75)

also bears testimony to the fact that consciousness and life pervade all existents. Now that it is known that all existents possess knowledge and consciousness and that all of them have amalakuti aspect, since man does not stand with them on the same plane and is in addition veiled from malakut, there is no wonder if they should ask forgiveness for the human being pursuing the path of knowledge and moving towards God, Who is the Source of existence and the Provider of the realm of being, and implore His sacred Merciful Essence with their clear malakuti voices -which are audible to open malakuti ears-to immerse this total offspring of mulk and this pride of the children of nature in the ocean of His forgiveness and to cover all his shortcomings.

It is also possible that as all other existents know that it is not possible for them to attain to the courtyard of the Sacred Essence and to dive into the ocean of perfection except through the mediation of the sacred essence of the Perfect Man-who has the gnosis of God and knowledge of the divine teachings and unites knowledge and action within himself, as has been established in its proper place-for this reason they beseech of God, the Exalted, man's perfection, which is attained through immersion in the ocean of God's forgiveness, so that they, too, through his means, may attain to the excellences appropriate for them. And God knows best.

4. Section: The `Alim's Superiority over the `Abid:

Know that the reality of knowledge and of faith-whose strength is also based on knowledge-is light. This issue, besides being in accordance with philosophical proof and mystic experience, is also in conformity with unambiguous texts and traditions of the pure and infallible Ahl al-Bayt-may peace be upon them. That is because the characteristic of `light', which consists of its being manifest in itself and its ability to make manifest other than itself, is also true of knowledge. Rather, its being true of the reality of knowledge is factual, whereas its ascription to sensible lights is more akin to figurative usage. That is because sensible light does not even possess self-manifestation in the real sense; it possesses quiddity and is one of the instances of that concept. However, the reality of knowledge is by essence existence itself; though in conception it is contrary to it, it corresponds and is associated with it in the context of objective reality. The reality of existence is identical with `light' and identical with consciousness:

God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. (24:35)

Hence knowledge is same as light and in the noble verses faith (iman) and knowledge have been referred to as `light'.

And to whomsoever God assigns no light, no light has he. (24:40)

In the noble Light Verse, 'light' has been interpreted (decoded) as `knowledge' . according to the exegesis of the Infallible Ahl al-Bayt-may peace be upon them:

(Al-Fudayl ibn Yasar says: "I asked) Abu 'Abd Allah al-Sadiq (A) concerning the meaning of `Allah is the Light o f the Heavens and the earth.' He replied, 'Such is Allah, the All-mighty and Glorious.' I asked him (about the meaning of the phrase) 'the likeness of His Light.' lie said, '(It means) Muhammad (S)'. I asked him, '(What is meant by) 'as a niche'? He said, 'The breast of Muhammad (S).' I asked him,'(What is meant by) 'wherein is a lamp'? He said, '(It means:) In it is the light of knowledge, that is prophethood.' I asked him, '(What is meant by:) 'The lamp is in a glass?' He said, '(It means:) the knowledge of the Messenger of Allah (S) emanated towards the heart of 'Ali' (A) .... " [5]

It is narrated from al-'Imam al-Baqir (A) that he said: "I am the guide of the heavens and the earth. The likeness of the knowledge that I have been given-which is the light wherewith they are guided-is as a niche, wherein is a lamp. 'The niche' is the heart of Muhammad-may God's benedictions be upon him and his Progeny-and 'the lamp' is the knowledge: that is, its light that is in it." [6]

In a tradition it is stated: "The man of faith moves in five lights: his entry is light; his exit is light; his knowledge is light; his speech is light; and his passage towards Paradise on the Day of Resurrection is light." [7]

And this is mentioned in a famous hadith:

Knowledge is a light that God casts into the heart of anyone that He wishes. [8]

There are various degrees of this light according to the different levels of the faith and knowledge of persons. It should be known that this real light that is in those who possess faith and knowledge, as it pertains to the lights of the world of the Hereafter, manifests itself in that world in the form of sensible radiance that varies with the soul's activity, and it is this light that shall illuminate the Sirat. Hence the light of a group is like the light of the sun, that of another like that of the moon, and so on until it is just-sufficient to illuminate the ground around one's feet.

Though, as we have known, knowledge is `light' and `manifestation', in their real sense and without any trace of metaphorical expression, we-poor folk-are veiled from the real sun of knowledge by the dark curtain of carnal nature and dwell in the gloomy night of the realm of mulk.We are veiled from the daily intensifying light of wisdom and insight and imagine that these are parables based on allegory(folktale) and metaphor and on surmise and reification. Yes, as long as we remain stupefied by the slumber of life and intoxicated by carnal nature, we cannot differentiate reality from allegory(fairy tale), and reality appears to be an allegory to our eyes, for, in fact, in the world of metaphors reality takes the form of allegory.

The people are asleep; when they die, they wake up. [9]

When our eyes are opened, we shall see that in the same way as the light of the sun and the moon is luminous and illuminating, so is the light of the man of knowledge. In this world he illuminates the gloomy hearts and brings to life the dead of nescience and ignorance by the light of his knowledge, and in that world, too, his light is encompassing; and by the means of that encircling radiance, he intercedes in favour of chose who derive light from the niche of his knowledge and are attached to the courtyard of his sanctity.

It should be known that `ibadah, too, cannot take place without knowledge, and hence the `abid too has a light that is particularly his. Rather, the essence of faith in God and worship of Him are light, with the difference that the `abid's light is confined to himself; it illuminates the path beneath his feet, but does not give light to others. Therefore, their likeness is that of stars on a full-moon night wherein their brilliance is dimmed due to the light of the moon. They shine for themselves and their light does not benefit others. Hence the similitude of the `abid in comparison with the`alim is that of a star, though not that of a star on a moonless night wherein it is a source of illumination to some extent, but of a star on a full-moon night when it just shines without illuminating other things.

Sadr al-Muta'allihin-may his soul be sanctified-says: "That which is meant by 'alim' in this noble hadith is other than the divine man of knowledge (`alim-e rabbani) whose knowledge is immediate (ladunni), obtained through Divine gift, like the sciences of the prophets and the awliya'-may peace be upon them-as is shown by the metaphor of moon; for otherwise the metaphor of sun would have been more appropriate, because its light is by Divine beneficence, without there being any intermediary belonging to the recipient's species or genus." Here ends his statement-may God elevate his station.

5. Section: On the `Ulama' Being the Heirs of the Prophets:

This inheritance is spiritual, for the descent of the `ulama' from the prophets is of a malakuti nature. In the same way as the human being is an offspring of mulk by virtue of his mulki life, he undergoes a malakuti birth under the rearing care of the prophets and after obtaining the station of the heart. As the source of the former birth is the physical father, the source of the latter birth are the prophets-may peace be upon them. Hence they are the spiritual ancestors; their inheritance(heritage) is spiritual and inward and the birth is a second, malakuti birth. After the prophets, the function of instruction and rearing lies with the `ulama', who are the real heirs of the prophets. The prophets-may peace be upon them- by virtue of this spiritual station, were not owners of wealth or concerned with the world of mulk and its corporeal affairs. Their inheritance, in virtue of this station, was nothing except knowledge and divine teachings, though by virtue of their corporeal birth and terrestrial life they possessed all the statuses associated with a human being:

Say: 'I am only a moral the like of you'... (18:110)

By virtue of this human status their heirs were not the learned but their own physical offsprings, and hence their legacy in respect of this bodily station can be material wealth.

This noble hadith clearly implies or rather categorically states the fact of spiritual inheritance(heritage) as explained. And that which the Noble Messenger-may Allah's benedictions be upon him and his Progeny meant by the words ascribed to that master, that:

We, prophets, do not leave any inheritance, [10]

-if we assume the authenticity of their ascription to him-is that the legacy of the prophets by virtue of their prophetic function and spiritual inheritance is not wealth and treasure; rather, it is knowledge, as is quite evident. Wa al-salam.

[1]. Al-Kulayni, Usul al-Kafi, i, kitab fadl al-'ilm, bab thawab al-'alim wa al-muta'allim, hadith 1.

[2]. Ibn Abi Jumhur, Ghawali al-la'ali, i, 106.

[3]. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-'anwar, xviii, 382.

[4]. This refers to the following hadith of Furu' al-Kafi, iii, 233:

[5]. Al-Shaykh al-Saduq, Kitab al-Tawhid, 157.

[6]. Tafsir nur al-thaqalayn, iii, 605.

[7]. Al-Bahrani, Tafsir al-burhan, iii, 135.

[8]. Author's Note: This is part of a long hadith that appears in the gloss on the Munyat al-murid of the blessed Shahid (al-Shahid al-Thani) which has been published together with the Ruwad al-jinan.(See also Bihar al-'anwar, i, 225, where it appears with a slight difference in wording.)

[9]. Ibn Maytham al-Bahrani, Sharh Mi'at kalimah, 54.

[10]. Musnad Ahmad, ii, 463.

With my chain of transmitters reaching up to the most venerable(dignified) shaykh and the trustworthy authority Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni-ridwan Allah 'alayh-(who reports:) from a group of our companions, from Ahmad ibn Muhammad, from Ibn Mahbub, from 'Umar ibn Yazid, from Abu 'Abd Allah-may peace be upon him-that he said: "It is written in the Torah: 'O son of Man, if you "empty" yourself (i.e. disengage yourself from all other preoccupations to make yourself available) for My worship, I will fill your heart with richness and I will not abandon(desert) you to what you seek and long for. And it will be upon Me to close the door of poverty upon you and to fill your heart with awe for Me. And if you don't "empty" yourself for My worship, I will fill your heart with preoccupation with the world and I will not close upon you the door of poverty and will abandon you to what you seek.' [1]

Exposition:

Tafarrugh belongs to the verbal form tafa'ul, and tafarragha li kadha means `he has devoted all his time to such and such a thing without being occupied with anything else.' The tafarrugh of the heart for the sake of worship (`ibadah) means `emptying' it for the sake of worship of attention to anything else. The lexicographers explain the verb mala'a (filled) as follows:

He 'filled' the vessel with water, i.e. he put in it a quantity that it can hold.

Akilu is a variant in the first person of yakilu. The lexicographers explain its usage as follows:

He 'entrusted' him with the matter, means, he turned it over to him, delegated it to him, left it to him, and put it completely in his charge.

Asuddu, a verb in the first person derived from sadda, yasuddu saddan, means closing, and is the opposite of al-fath, opening. Faqah means hajah and faqr, i.e. poverty and need. As to, apparently it (i.e. the verb ) represents the first person in the imperfect tense and its being in the imperative case in conjunction with the first clause is unlikely. We shall, God willing, expound that which needs explanation in the noble tradition in the course of a few sections.

1. The Significance of Prayer:

Know that freedom from other preoccupations for the sake of absorption in worship (`ibadah) is obtainable through possessing unoccupied time and an unoccupied heart. And this is one of the most important points regarding worship, without which the presence of heart cannot be realized, and a worship performed without an attentive heart is devoid of value. That which brings about attentiveness of the heart consists of two matters. The first of these lies in possessing unoccupied time and an unoccupied heart, and the second lies in making one's heart understand the importance of worship. That which is meant by `unoccupied time' is that one should set aside a certain time out of his day and night hours exclusively for the sake of worship wherein he should devote himself solely to worship without engaging in any other preoccupation. If one were to understand that worship is an important thing whose significance is greater than any other activity, or, rather, that it is something of incomparable significance, he would allocate a certain time to it and be careful to observe its timings. In the following we shall try to cast some light on this matter.

A devout person should be observant of the times of his worship under every circumstance. Of course, he should observe the timings of salat, which is the most important of the acts of worship, and carry it out in the most meritorious part of its time, refraining from engaging in any other work during those times. In the same way as he assigns a certain time to making an earning and for study and debate, he should do the same in respect of these acts of worship, in whose time he must be free from other preoccupations, so that he can achieve concentration of the heart, which makes up the quintessence and kernel of `ibadah. But should he, like this author, offer his prayers out of compulsion and consider the performance of the worship of the Lord as a superfluous matter, he would, of course, delay it as long as it can be delayed and when he offers it offer it in a perfunctory manner, considering it as an impediment in the way of what he imagines to be important tasks. However, such a worship has not only no spiritual brilliance, it deserves Divine wrath, and such a person is one who makes light of salat and neglects it as something trivial. I seek refuge in God from making light of salat and not giving it its due importance. These pages cannot contain all the traditions that exist in this context, and sere we will mention a few of them for the sake of lesson.

Muhammad ibn Ya'qub (al-Kulayni) reports with his isnad from Abu Ja'far may peace be upon him-that he said to Zurarah-may God's mercy be upon him: "Don't be negligent in regard to your prayers. Verily, the Prophet may God's benedictions be upon him and his Family-said on his death-bed: 'The one who makes light of his prayers does not belong to me, nor the one who takes intoxicating drinks, and, by God, he will not return to me at the Pond (of al-Kawthar).' " [2]

Al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from Abu Basir that Abu al-Hasan al'Awwal (al-'Imam al-Kazim)-may peace be upon him-said: "At the time of his death my father said to me, 'My son, the one who makes light of salat will not receive our intercession.' " [3]

There are a large number of traditions concerning this matter, but these that have been cited are sufficient for those who will take a lesson. God knows what a great calamity it is to be separated from the Noble Messenger-may God's benedictions be upon him and his Family-and to be deprived of the support of that master! What a great humiliation is it that is entailed by deprival from the intercession of that master and his majestic Household! Don't imagine that anyone will receive Divine forgiveness and enter the promised Paradise without the intercession and protection of that noble personage. Now see for yourself whether preferring every trivial matter, or rather something which is of imaginary benefit, to prayer, which is the apple of the eye of the Noble Messenger-may God's benedictions be upon him and his Family-and a great means of Divine mercy, and treating it with negligence, delaying it without any excuse until the end of its time and not observing its prerequisites is not equal to-slighting it and making light of it. If it is, know that you have, in accordance with the testimony of the Noble Messenger-may God's benedictions be upon him and his Family-and that of the immaculate Imams-may peace be upon them-gone out of their wilayahand will not attain to their intercession. Now if you stand in need of their intercession and wish to belong to the ummah of the Noble Messenger-may God's benedictions be upon him and his Progeny-then treasure this divine trust and give it importance, or face the consequences of your neglect. God, the Most Exalted, and His awliya' have no need of the works of yours and mine, but it is feared that if you fail to give it its due importance, it will lead you to abandon(desert) it altogether and that will ultimately lead you to deny it as duty, bringing you to certain damnation and everlasting wretchedness.

More important than finding free and unoccupied time for salat is possessing a free and unoccupied heart. Rather, the former is a prerequisite for obtaining the latter. Having an unoccupied heart means that at the time of worship one must disengage himself from mundane engagements and cares and turn his heart away from all kinds of matters and cares and make it entirely empty and unencumbered for attending to worship and supplication with God Almighty. As long as one cannot purge his heart of these matters, he cannot obtain the necessary state of extrication for himself and his worship. But our misfortune is that we store up all the various kinds of stray thoughts and cares for the time of worship. As soon as we say the takbirat al'ihram of salat, it is as if we have opened a shop or a ledger of accounts or an album. Our heart wanders away to other matters and we become totally oblivious of worship. When we come to ourselves, it is when we have reached the moment of salam, having passed through the salat as a matter of habit! Truly, this kind of worship is a disgrace and this mode of supplicating with the Lord is shameful.

My dear, consider the prayers you offer to God by comparing them with talk and conversation with one of His insignificant creatures. When talking to a stranger-to say nothing of a friend you attend to him with all your attention and are oblivious of anyone else as long as you are engaged in conversation with him. But why is it that while engaging in communication and prayer with your Provider and the Lord and Sustainer of the worlds you are totally heedless of Him and attentive to other matters? Is the station and worth of creatures greater than that of the Sacred Essence of the Lord? Is conversation with them more valuable than supplication with the Fulfiller of needs. Yes, I and you do not know the significance of supplication with God. We consider these divine duties as a cumbersome burden, and, of course, a matter that is a cumbrous weight on one will not be significant for him.

Hence that which needs correction is the source of this stream. We must obtain faith in God and the exhortations of the prophets so as to reform our sorry state. All our misfortunes arise from the weakness of our faith and the shaky character of our conviction. The faith of Sayyid ibn Tawus-may God be pleased with him-had brought him to such a point that he used to celebrate every year the anniversary of the day of his becoming mukallaf, for on that day God had bestowed upon him the permission to engage in His worship and had dressed him in the robes of taklif. Really, just imagine, what purity and brilliance that heart of his had!

And if the practice of that glorious Sayyid is 'tot it binding proof (hujjah) for you, the practice of the Master of Monotheists (Sayyid alMuwahhidin, i.e. the Prophet [S]) and his infallible descendants is, of course, a hujjah for you. Study the condition of those noble souls and the character of their worship and prayers. At the time of salat the colour of their blessed faces would pale and their bodies would tremble(shake) with the fear lest there should occur some lapse in the course of this divine observance, although they were infallible.

It is well-known concerning the Mawla ('Ali) that ail arrow that had pierced his blessed foot and removing which was intolerably painful for him, was taken out when he was engaged in salat and he did not even notice its removal.

My dear, such a thing is not impossible. Such things occur quite often for people in the ordinary course of life. At times a man becomes totally oblivious of everything in the state of anger(frenzy) or love. One of our reliable friends used to narrate that "Once during a fight with a group of ruffians in Isfahan, I noticed that some of them struck me with their fists and I did not know what kind of blows they were. Later when the fight was over and I came to myself, I realized that. I had several wounds made by a knife with which they had struck me. I was bedridden for several days before I recovered(regained)  from those wounds." Of course, the reason behind it is obvious: when the total attention of the soul is concentrated on a certain matter, it becomes totally oblivious of the body and insensitive to its feelings. All its attention is absorbed by that single thing. In our own fights, encounters or heated(stowed) debates in a gathering-may God be our refuge from these-we have often noticed that we become totally heedless of everything else that takes place around us. However, regrettably, everything absorbs our total attention except the worship of the Lord, and that is why we tend to regard such episodes (as that of Imam 'Ali) as improbable(incredible)(unbelieavable)

In any case, detachment of the heart from everything except God is an important matter and one must try to attain it at all costs. The means of achieving it is also possible and attainable. It can be achieved with the exercise of some care and vigilance. One should make effort for some time to bring the flights of the bird of his thought under control and restrain it whenever it wishes to fly from one branch to another. After a period of watchfulness, the mind becomes tractable and docile and refrains from engaging in random(unreliable) thoughts. In accord with the aphorism -goodness becomes a habit with it and, attaining detachment from other preoccupations, it becomes attentive to God and His worship.

Of foremost importance amongst the prerequisites of worship is the attention of the heart, on which depends the soul and essence of worship and without which it has no value and acceptability near God, the Exalted, as mentioned in sacred traditions.

In al-Kafi, al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from Abu Ja'far and Abu 'Abd Allah-may peace be upon them-that they said to Fudayl ibn Yasar: "The reward that you derive from your salat is limited to the extent that you offer it with an attentive heart. And if someone should vitiate all of it or neglect its etiquette, it is wound up and thrown at the face of its offerer." [4]

Al-Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Hasan (al-Tusi)-may God be pleased with him -reports in al-Tahdhibwith his isnad from Abu Hamzah al-Thumali that he said: "I saw 'Ali ibn al-Husayn (al-'Imam al-Sajjad) may peace be upon both of them-offering prayer, when the cloak slipped from his shoulders. The Imam did not arrange it until he had finished his prayer. When I questioned him about it, he said: 'Woe to you, don't you know before whom I stood? Nothing is accepted of a devotee's prayer except what he offers with the proper attention of his heart.' Thereupon I said to him, 'May I be ransomed for you, (if that is so) then we (i.e. the like of us) are doomed!' He replied, 'No indeed. Verily God compensates for that for the faithful by the means of supererogatory prayers.' " [5]

In al-Khisal, (al-Shaykh al-Saduq) reports with his isnad from 'Ali-may peace be upon him-that he said: "None of you should ever stand for salat in a lazy or drowsy state, nor should you let irregular(random) thoughts pass through your mind (in the state of salat). For, in that state, you stand before your Glorious and Almighty Lord. Verily, the reward a devotee derives from prayer is equal to the extent of it that he offers with an attentive heart." [6]

There are many traditions on this theme and concerning the merit of attentiveness. Here we will cite some of them which are sufficient for those who will take lesson.

Muhammad ibn 'Ali ibn al-Husayn, the saduq of the community, reports with his isnad from 'Abd Allah ibn Abi Ya'fur that al-'Imam al-Sadiq-may peace be upon him-said to him, "O 'Abd Allah, when you offer salat, pray like someone who bids farewell and fears that he will never return (i.e. pray in such a manner as if it were the last prayer of your life). Then fix your gaze on the point of your prostration. If you know that there is someone on your left or right, you take more care in offering your salat; then know that you stand in front of Someone Who sees you and you don't see Him." [7]

 

Al-'Imam al-Sadiq-may peace be upon him-said: "Dear to me is the believer from among you who attends to God with his heart at the time of prayer and does not preoccupy his heart with any mundane matter. For whenever a devotee turns with his heart to God, the Exalted, during prayer, God turns His face towards him, and turns towards him the hearts of the faithful who regard him with affection, following God's love of him. " [8]

Just reflect what kind of good news is this that the Truthful One (al-Sadiq) of the Family of Muhammad-may peace be upon them-gives to the faithful! Alas, we, poor folk, who dwell in nescience and are devoid of attentiveness to God, the Exalted, unaware of His friendship, and liken His love to that of His creatures! Those who possess gnosis (ma'rifah) state that God, the Exalted, removes blindfolds from the sight of those whom He loves, and God knows what nobilities lie in freedom from such a blindness. The ultimate hope and goal of the awliya' has lain in this freedom from nescience. And the Commander of the Faithful-may peace be upon him-and his noble descendants say in the supplications known as the Munajat-e Sha'baniyyah:

My God, grant me the utmost absorption in Thee and illuminate the vision of our hearts with the light of Thy Vision, until the sight of the hearts can penetrate the curtains of light and reach the source of Greatness and until our spirits get anchored to the threshold of Thy Sanctity. [9]

My God! What is this illumination of the heart's vision that Your awliya' beseech of You and seek to attain? O Lord, what are those concealing curtains of light that our Infallible Imams spoke about? What is that source of Greatness, Glory, Sanctity, and Perfection, reaching which is the cherished goal of those sacred souls and which for always lie beyond the ken of even our theoretical knowledge, to say nothing of our experiencing and witnessing it? O God, be gracious to us, wretched and fallen creatures that we are, who neither know anything beyond gluttony and slumber, hatred and lust, nor seek to discover anything beyond them! Awaken us from this waking slumber and this stupefied sanity.

In any case, this single hadith is sufficient to induce those who are worthy of it and receptive to spend all their lives for attaining to God's love and to seek His Face. But as to the like of us, who don't belong to this field and valley, we would do better to stick to other traditions like the following ones:

In the Thawab al- a'mal, al-Shaykh al-Saduq reports with his chain of transmitters from someone who heard al-'Imam al-Sadiq-may peace be upon him -that he used to say: "One who offers tworak'ahs of salat with the knowledge of what he says therein, he does not finish them without God forgiving him every sin that there is between him and God." [10]

The Messenger of Allah-may Allah's benediction be upon him and his Family-said: "Two lightrak'ahs offered with contemplation are better than a whole night spent in worship. "[11]

2. The Various Levels of Concentration:

Having known that an attentive heart is the soul and heart of worship and that its luminosity and degree of excellence depend on the attentiveness of the heart and its degree, it should be known that there are different levels of the heart's attention. Some of these levels are special to theawliya' of God and others are incapable of climbing to those heights; but some of its levels are attainable for the common people. And it should be known that attention in worship is generally divisible into two main kinds: one of these is attention of the heart to worship and the other is attention of the heart to God.

Before explaining this issue, we are forced to mention one preliminary matter, which is this. The gnostics say that worship is, absolutely, glorification of the Lord. However, each of the various kinds of worship is a praise of God in accordance with one of His Names and Attributes, excepting salat which is glorification of God with all of His Names and Attributes. Earlier it was mentioned in the exposition of some traditions that praise of the Worshipped One is a proclivity ingrained in all human beings. It is a necessity(urgency)   demanded by nature that makes man submit in humility to the absolutely Perfect One, the absolutely Beautiful One, the absolute Provider and the absolutely Great. And since no one can discover the real significance of the praise of the Sacred Essence-for that depends upon the knowledge of the Essence and its Attributes and the reality of the relation between the Manifest and the Hidden it is impossible except through the means of revelation and divine inspiration. Accordingly, the acts of worship are absolutely prescriptive and laid down' by God, and no one has the right to legislate in this regard and innovate some rite of worship. The kind of ceremonies of homage and reverence that are in vogue in the courts of kings and princes have no worth or value before His Sacred Essence. Hence man should sit up and take notice, and learn the manner of worship or devotion through the agency of revelation and prophethood and refrain from making any kind of unauthorized dispensations in this regard.

Having known that worship is glorification of the Worshipped One, one should note, as pointed out earlier, that attention of the heart is of two main kinds: attention to worship and attention to the Worshipped One.

Attention to Worship:

There are various degrees of this kind of attention, which are divisible into two main levels. One of these is attention of an incomplete and summary character. In this kind of attention, while performing an act of worship-whatever that may be, whether related to taharah, such as wudu' orghusl, or to prayer, fasting, or Hajj pilgrimage or something else-one is attentive in a general way that he is magnifying the Lord, though he himself does not know the nature of his own glorification nor understands the significance of any of the Divine Names. Our shaykh, the perfect `arif that he was, and may my soul be his ransom, used to mention an analogy comparing this kind of worship to the recital of a child who is asked to recite a panegyric in the praise of someone. The child, who himself does not understand the panegyric, is told that it is meant to eulogize the person in whose presence it is read. As he recites it, the child knows summarily that he is eulogizing the person praised without knowing the character of the praise. We, too, who are children singing the praise of God, do not know the secrets that lie in these acts of worship. Neither do we understand the character of relation that each of these divine forms has to some Divine Name, nor do we know in what way it is glorification of God. However, we should at least be cognizant of the fact that each of those acts of worship is magnification of the absolutely Perfect One, of the One Who is absolutely worthy of all praise and worship, a form that the Sacred Essence Itself has prescribed for Its glorification and commanded us to magnify It through its means in Its sacred presence.

Another of the levels of attentiveness of the heart is its detailed attention to worship; its complete attainment is not possible for anyone except the sincere awliya' and the gnostics. However, some of its lower degrees are attainable for others, the first stage wherein is concentration on the meaning of the words during salat and prayer. The tradition cited earlier from the Thawab al-'a'malrefers to this stage. Another stage of it is that one should understand to the extent of his capacity the mysteries of worship and the character of glorification of the Worshipped One underlying each of the ritual forms. The gnostics have, to a certain extent, described the mysteries of salat and other forms of worship and have benefited to the extent of their capacity from the statements contained in the traditions of the Infallible One may peace be upon them. Although an understanding of the reality of the matter is rarely attained by anyone, whatever extent of it that has been mentioned is a free gift for those who have an aptitude for it.

Attention to the Worshipped One:

As to the heart's attention to the Worshipped One, that also consists of various degrees that fall into three main levels. One of them pertains to concentrating the heart, on revelations (tajalliyat)of Divine Acts. Another of them relates to concentrating the heart. on revelations of Names and Attributes. The third consists of concentrating with the heart on revelations of the Essence. Each of these levels consists of four planes that may be generally put as the plane of knowledge, the plane of faith, the plane of direct experience, and the plane of absorption (or annihilation, fana').That which is meant by concentrating the heart on revelations of Acts on the plane of knowledge is that in it the wayfaring devotee knows on the level of theoretical knowledge and metaphysical proof that all the levels of existence and all the visible and unseen domains of being are manifestation of the effusion of the Most Sacred Essence, and that all of them, right from the lower levels of the world of nature to the fountainhead of the higher malakut and the greater jabarut, are equally and uniformly present before His Sanctity. They are all manifestations of His unfolding Will, as mentioned in the following sacred tradition from al-Kafi

Al-'Imam al-Sadiq-may peace be upon him-said: "God created the Will by itself. Then He brought all things into existence through the agency of the Will. " [12]

Hence the Will by itself is manifestation of the Essence and other existents have been created through its means. We don't however intend to give here the proof of this sublime matter. The devotee who understands this matter on the plane of theory and metaphysical proof, knows that his own being, as well as his worship, knowledge, will, heart, the actions of his heart, and his inward and outward being all of them are present before His Sanctity or, rather, they are presence itself. Should the pen of his intellect inscribe this truth on the tablet of his heart and should the heart attain conviction in this certain, axiomatic premise by the means of theoretical and practical exercises, he will obtain attention of the heart to the revelations on the plane of faith. After the perfection of this faith and following the exercises and austerities and attainment of the perfect piety of the heart, the wayfarer is afforded by Divine guidance to partake of the tajalliyat of Acts, directly experiencing them with his heart, until his heart becomes the complete mirror of thosetajalliyat and he achieves the state of swoon (sa'q) and annihilation (fana'). This is the ultimate stage of attention that ultimately leads the attentive one to be absorbed in the tajalliyat of Acts. Many of the wayfarers of the path of gnosis remain for ever immersed in this state of swoon and do not come to themselves.

And should the wayfarer's heart have a greater capacity than this as a result of the light of the Most Sacred Effusion (fayd-e aqdas) in pre-eternity, he will recover(reclaim) from this swoon, resume his sociability (uns) and return to his domain and receive the tajalliyat of Names and, traversing similar stages, reach annihilation in Attributes (fana'-e sifati) in proportion to his permanent prototype(`ayn-e thabit), becoming annihilated in one of the Divine Names. Many wayfarers of the mystic path remain in the state of annihilation in Names (fana'-e asmai) and do not come to themselves. Perhaps the following sacred tradition is a reference to this group of awliya':

Verily My friends are under My cloak. None knows them except Me. [13]

And should his capacity, endowed to him by manifestation of the Most Sacred Effusion (in pre-eternity), be of a greater extent than this, he will recover from this swoon and annihilation, regain sociability, come to himself and receive the tajalliyat of the Essence, until, on reaching the last stage of annihilation in Essence and total swoon, his journey ends and complete annihilation is attained. Some have said that the verse:

Whoso goes forth from his house an emigrant to God and His Messenger, and then death overtakes him, his wage shall have fallen on God...,(4:100)

alludes to this group of awliya' of God and wayfarers towards Him, and the reward of these wayfarers lies solely with the Sacred Essence.

And sometimes the wayfarer may recover from this station, whereupon, by virtue of his capacity and in accordance with the scope of his permanent prototype, he devotes himself to the guidance of the creatures:

O thou shrouded in thy mantle, arise, and warn! (74:1-2)

And should his permanent prototype be subject to the Greatest Divine Name, he would be the completing arc of the circle of prophethood, such as was the case with the Noble Messenger and the Great Seal of the Prophets-may God's benedictions be upon him and his Family. For the permanent prototype of none among the creatures, from the first to the last one, or that of any of the prophets and messengers, conformed to the Greatest Divine Name nor did it reveal the Divine Essence in all Its aspects. Hence the Essential Reality of the Messenger manifests all the aspects of the Essence and this manifestation culminated in guidance, intuiting the total span of Reality and bringing prophethood to its culmination by his sacred existence. And if, supposedly, any of theawliya' were to reach this station by following the sacred essence (of the Prophet) and through his guidance, his intuition (kashf) would be identical to it and repetition in legislation would not be permissible. Thus the circle of prophethood was completed by his sacred being and the last brick was laid in the circle of prophethood, as mentioned in hadith.

It should be known that the worship and spiritual states of those who stand on each of the stations mentioned, are very different and extremely various. Each of them partakes of prayer a portion that is not possessed by one who has not reached that station. Of course, that which was experienced by al-'Imam al-Sadiq-may peace be upon him-during the course of `ibadah is something that is not possible for others. It is narrated from Sayyid Ibn Tawus-may God sanctify his soul-as mentioned in the Falah al-sa'il, that he said:

It has been narrated that our master, Ja'far ibn Muhammad al Sadiq-may peace be upon him-was once reciting the Qur'an in his salat. He went into a swoon, and when he emerged from it he was asked, "What was that that led you into that state?" He gave a reply, which meant, "I continued repeating verses of the Qur'an until I reached a state wherein it was as if I heard them directly from Him Who had sent them down. And it is beyond human power to witness Divine glory." [14]

The states that occurred to the Noble Messenger-may God's benedictions be upon him and his Family-were such that the like of them have not been experienced by any other creature, as mentioned in this famous tradition:

I experience a state with God for which neither an archangel nor an apostolic prophet has the capacity. [15]

Let us leave this discourse here for we do not partake of it anything except words. That which is important for the like of us is that, now that we are incapable of attaining to the stations of theawliya', we must refrain from negating their truth. Rather, we must acquiesce to them, for acquiescence to the affair of the awliya' is very beneficial and its negation-may God be our refuge-is greatly harmful. `O God, I acquiesce in their affair, may God's benedictions be upon them all.

 

3. The Incarnation of Works in the Hereafter:

Know that concentration of the heart in worship cannot be obtained without making it understand the significance of the acts of worship, and that is not possible without understanding their mysteries and realities. Although such a thing is beyond our ken, I will, to the extent of the capacity of someone like me, mention here that which can be inferred from the traditions of the infallible Ahl al-Bayt-may peace be upon them-and the statements of the gnostics, to the extent that is appropriate for these pages. .

You should know-as has been repeatedly mentioned earlier-that every one of virtuous actions and acts of worship has an esoteric and malakuti form and makes an effect on the devotee's heart. As to the esoteric and inward form, they are what go into the building of the worlds of Barzakh and the physical Paradise, for the grounds of Paradise are empty plains as mentioned in traditions. Our prayers and works are the material for their building, as mentioned in hadith, and there are many verses in the Sacred Book of God that indicate the incarnation of works, like these statements of God Almighty:

And whoso has done an atom's weight of good shall see it, and whoso has done an atom's weight of evil shall see it. (99: 7-8)

And they shall find all they wrought present. (18:49)

The traditions that indicate the incarnation of works and their possession of hidden malakuti forms are many and scattered(dotted) throughout the various chapters and here we will confine ourselves to a few of them.

Al-Shaykh al-Saduq-may God sanctify his soul-reports with his isnad from al-'Imam al-Sadiq-may peace be upon him-that he said: "When someone offers an obligatory salat at the beginning of its time and observes its prerequisites, an angel takes it up to the heaven. White and pure, it (i.e. thesalat) says, `May God take care of you as you took care of me. I have been delivered into the custody(imprisonment) of a noble angel.' But when someone offers it without any excuse after its time has elasped and does not observe its requisite manners, black and dark, it is taken up by an angel, while it calls out to him (i.e. its offerer), `You neglected me. May God neglect you in the same manner that you neglected me. May God not take care of you in the same way that you did not take care of me.' " [16]

Aside from the malakuti forms of works, that which can be inferred from this noble tradition is that they possess life and its properties. This is also inferable from a certain metaphysical proof and the traditions indicate that all existents have a malakuti life, or rather the world of malakut is Life and consciousness through and through, as spelled out by this Qur'anic verse:

Surely the abode of the Hereafter is life, did they but know. (29:64)

In al-Kafi, al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from al-'Imam al-Sadiq-may peace be upon him-that he said in the course of a long tradition: "When the man of faith is resurrected from his grave by God, an ethereal form emerges with him that walks in front of him. Every time the man of faith beholds any horror from among the horrors of the Day of Resurrection, that form says to him, 'Don't fear and don't grieve, and receive the good news of joy and dignity from God, Almighty and Glorious', until he stops before God, Almighty and Glorious, Who makes a lenient reckoning of his deeds and orders him to enter Paradise, (and he enters it) with the form walking ahead of him. Thereupon the believer will say to it, 'May God be gracious to you, you were a good companion(comrade) to come out with me from my grave. You have continued to give me the glad tidings of joy and dignity from God until I saw them for myself.' Then he will ask it, 'Who are you?' The form will reply, 'I am the joy that you used to bring to your brother in faith in the world. God, Almighty and Glorious, created me from it in order to give you the good news.' [17]

This noble tradition also clearly(unmistakably)   indicates the possession of body and form by works in the life of the Hereafter. The most venerated Shaykh Baha' al-Din-may his soul be sanctified-also remarks in his commentary on this noble tradition, "Some traditions indicate the incarnation of beliefs as well. Hence righteous actions and beliefs will appear in bright and fair-looking forms, causing extreme joy and delight to their owners. Evil deeds and beliefs will appear in dark and ugly forms, causing extreme grief and agony to their owners, as stated by a group of exegetes under this noble verse:

The day every soul shall find what it has done of good brought forward, and what it has done n f evil; it will wish if there were only a far span between itself and that, (3:30)

"And we are led to the same interpretation by this statement of God, the Exalted:

Upon that day men shall issue in scatterings to see their works, (and whoso has done an atom's weight of good shall see it, and whoso has done an atom's weight of evil shall see it). (99:6-8)

"And those who believe that there is an assumed omission in this noble verse and argue that what is meant is (i.e. to see the reward of their works), not considering the pronoun in to refer to works, have missed the point." [18] Here ends the translation of his statements, may God elevate his noble station.

Here some eminent traditionists have expressed certain views, which better remain unsaid. These views arise from their surmise that belief in the incarnation of works contradicts the belief in bodily resurrection, although the former supports the latter and the word tamaththul (assumption of bodily form) in this noble tradition has a similar signification to what it has in this statement of God, the Exalted:

(Then We sent unto her [i.e. Mary) Our Spirit,) that presented itself to her in the form of a man without fault. (19:17)

Here the spirit did really assume a bodily form, which was not something imaginary, like the form that appears in dreams. In any case, divesting such verses as these and traditions of their literal meanings and that despite their conformity to firm metaphysical proofs which are established in their own proper place-solely because they do not fit in with our intelligence and are in conformity with the creed of the philosophers and metaphysicians is not a commendable thing. The best approach is to adopt acquiescence before the Sacred Lord and the infallible awliya'.

'Thus, it is known that every work that receives acceptance in the sacred Divine court has a fair and beautiful form in accordance with its nature-such as the houris, palaces, the high gardens and the flowing stream of Paradise. No being comes into existence arbitrarily and extravagantly. Rather, there are certain rational relationships that are involved, whose discovery is not possible for anyone except. the perfect awliya'. The matter, to put it in a nutshell, is subject to rational and metaphysical criteria.

Now that it is known that the life of the Hereafter and its joys depend on works, whose consummate forms are transferred to that world, those works are acts of worship that this community has come to know about through the consummate intuition of Muhammad may God's benedictions be upon him and his Family. The excellence and beauty of these works depend on one's intentions and attention of one's heart as well as the observance of its requisite manners. Should a work be devoid of all or some of these conditions, it would be devoid of validity or, rather, would possess an ugly and distorted form which he will encounter in the other world, as we came to know through the traditions. Hence it is incumbent upon every person who believes in the unseen world and the traditions of the prophets, the awliya' and the gnostics, and cares about eternal and immortal life, to improve his works through every possible effort and austerity. And after that their outward aspect and form is brought into conformity with the rules of ijtihad or the opinion of the fuqaha'-may God be pleased with them -he should endeavour to reform their inner character, taking all the care that he can to perform at least the wajibat with the due attention of the heart and try to remove their shortcomings and, then, those of the nawafil, for as mentioned in the noble traditions the nawafilcompensate for the defects of the fara'id and cause them to be accepted.

In the 'Ilal al-shara'i, (al-Shaykh al-Saduq) reports with his isnad from Abu Ja'far-may peace be upon him-that he said; "Verily the supererogatory acts of worship have been laid down in order to compensate for that which is vitiated out of the obligatory acts." [19]

Al-Shaykh al-Tusi-may his soul be sanctified-reports with his isnad from Abu Basir that al-'Imam al-Sadiq-may peace be upon him-said: "Out of the salat offered by a man only .a half of it or a one-fourth or a one-eighth rises to heaven in accordance with the extent of his lapses therein ( ) [20] However, God the Exalted, compensates for it through the means of the supererogatory prayers." [21]

There are many other traditions of this kind, and it is obvious that we are not free from lapses, forgetfulness, absentmindedness and other matters that vitiate prayer or its perfection. God, the Exalted, with His consummate grace, has appointed the nawafil to enable us to compensate for such shortcomings. Of course, it is essential to avoid, as far as possible, any kind of negligence in this matter and not to neglect the nawafil.

In any case, my dear, do come out a bit from this state of neglect; reflect about your affair and examine the record of your deeds. Beware lest the works that you imagine to be righteous deeds, such as prayers, fasts, Hajj and the like, should themselves become the means of your wretchedness and disgrace in the other world. Hence, so long its the opportunity remains, examine your own conduct and place your acts in the balance of scrutiny and in the scales of the Shari'ah and the wilayah of the Ahl al-Bayt (A) and find out the extent of their soundness and viciousness, their perfection and defectiveness, and make ammends as long as there remains time and opportunity. And should you fail to examine your own account here and to put it straight, your account-taking will be carried out there and your deeds will be placed in the Balance of Works and there great calamities may lie in wait for you. Be fearful of the scales of Divine justice, never be proud of anything and don't leave off serious effort. For a while observe the book of works of the Messenger's Ahl al-Bayt -may peace be upon them-who were inerrant and infallible, and contemplate regarding them. See what a tremendous difficulty lies ahead of us, and how narrow and dark is the path! Now consider the following tradition and guess the enormousness of the matter from this brief hadith:

The pride of the community and its authority, its treasure and pillar, Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Nu'man al-Mufid-may God's good pleasure be with him-reports in al-Irshad from Sa'id ibn Kulthum that al-'Imam Ja'far ibn Muhammad al-Sadiq-may peace be upon him and his father-said: "By God, 'Ali ibn Abi Talib-may peace be upon him-never ate anything forbidden as long as he lived in the world, and never were two things wherein lay God's good pleasure presented to him without his choosing that which was more taxing of the two for his body, And never did the Messenger of Allah-may Allah's benedictions be upon him and his Family-face any hardship without calling out to 'Ali (A), out of his trust in him, and none out of this Ummah except him has possessed the capacity, endurance and strength of the Messenger of Allah-may Allah's benedictions be upon him and his Family. In his conduct, he would act like someone in trepidation whose face was between heaven and hell and who looked forward to the reward of heaven and was frightful of the punishment of hell.

"Indeed, he set free in the way of God and for sake of deliverance from Fire a thousand slaves out of his own money, earned with the toil of his hands and the sweat of his brow. The food of his household consisted of oil, vinegar and dates, and his dress was never made of anything but coarse(rough) cotton, and if his blessed sleeves were too long he would ask for a scissors and cut them short.

"Among his descendants and family no one ever came closer to resembling him in his learning and dress than 'Ali' ibn al-Husayn-may peace be upon both of them. His son Abu Ja'far (al-'Imam al-Baqir-may peace be upon him-once entered upon him and saw that he had reached an unprecedented state in worship. His complexion had paled due to keeping awake at nights; his eyes were sore from weeping; his forehead and nose were bruised due to prolonged prostrations; and hiss feet and ankles were swollen as a result of standing in prayer.

"Abu Ja'far-may peace be upon him-said: `When I saw him in this condition I could not stop myself from breaking into tears. So I wept out of compassion that I felt for him, while he was sunk in contemplation. Some time passed after I had entered. Then noticing me, he said to me, "My son, give me one of those books which describes the worship of 'Ali ibn Abi Talib -may peace be upon him." I gave it to him. He read a little from it and then set it aside in exasperation. Then he declared, "Who has the strength to worship like 'Ali ibn Abi Talib-may peace be upon him!"'" [22]

Al-'Imam al-Baqir-may peace be upon him-said: " 'Ali' ibn al-Husayn-may peace be upon the two of them-used to offer one thousand rak'ahs of salat in every day and night. The wind would sway him like an ear of corn." [23]

My dear! Give some thought to these noble traditions. See how al-Imam al-Baqir-may peace be upon him-who was an infallible Imam fell weeping on observing the austerities of the worship of his father and on observing his state in worship. Observe how al-'Imam al-Sajjad-may peace be upon him-despite the severe care and total dedication that he exercised in worship, expressed his weakness on reading a little from the book -of 'Ali ibn Abi Talib-may peace be upon him. Of course, all are incapable of worshipping like the Master of Masters (Mawla al-Mawali) and the common lot are incapable of the worship offered by the Infallible Ones. However, when one is incapable of attaining to a high station he should not give up altogether.

We must understand that this worship of theirs was not-may God be our refuge-a feigned performance. Rather, the path is so perilous and the way is so narrow and the passes of death and Resurrection are so difficult that it impelled those who have the knowledge of the reality to implore and admit their weakness. This nonchalance of ours arises from the weakness of our faith and the insufficiency of conviction, from our ignorance and nescience.

O Lord! You are aware of the character of Your servants and know our deficiencies and shortcomings, our weakness and impotence. You immersed us in Your mercy even before our asking for it. Your bounties are given unasked and Your favours are prior to requests of help. Now we confess to our shortcomings and our ingratitude in the face of Your unlimited bounties. We confess that we deserve painful punishment and are worthy of being confined to Hell. We have no excuse and no means of seeking Your pardon except what You have said through the tongues of Your prophets, concerning Yourself and Your mercifulness, Your compassion, pity, grace and generosity. We know You through these attributes of Yours and to the extent of our capacity. How will You deal with this handful of dust? Will it be with anything except compassion and magnanimity?

Where is Your all-inclusive compassion? Where is Your all-inclusive help? Where is Your universal magnanimity? Where is Your generosity, O Generous One?

4. Worship and Freedom from Need:

It should be known that ghina (self-sufficiency, richness, independence, and being without need of others) is a virtue of the soul or, rather, a virtue of being qua being. Hence ghina is an Essential Attribute of the Sacred Essence of God, Glorious and Exalted. Wealth and riches do not bring spiritual self-sufficiency. Rather, it may be said that those who lack spiritual self-sufficiency are made more greedy and avaricious due to the possession of property, riches and wealth, and their need becomes greater. True richness is unattainable except through God, Glorious and Exalted, Who is Self-sufficient-by-Essence, and all other existents, from humble dust to the topmost heaven and from primal matter to the higher jabarut, all are `poor' and needy. Hence the more the heart's attention is turned to other-than-God and the more is one's inner self attentive to the cultivation of the mundane and the corporeal world (mulk), the more one's poverty and need become day by day. The spiritual aspect of this poverty is quite obvious, because attachment and love is need by itself. The external aspect of this poverty, which reinforces spiritual poverty, also becomes stronger; for one who is not independent in managing his own affairs inevitably stands in need of others. Even if the rich and the wealthy should outwardly appear to be without need, a closer look will reveal that their need increases in proportion to the amount of their wealth. Hence the wealthy are the poor in the garb of rich and needy in the garb of self-sufficient.

The more is the attention of the heart and its attachment to mundane matters and cultivation of the world, the more does it get covered with the dust of abasement and poverty and the greater become its need and darkness of abasement. Conversely, if someone should turn his back upon attachment to the world and orient the heart toward absolute richness and self-sufficiency, convinced in the essential poverty of all beings, understanding that no existent possesses anything of itself and that there is no power, honour or authority except through God, and listens to the voice of the malakuti caller and the call from the Unseen that:

O mankind, you have the ones that have need of God; He is the All-sufficient, the All-laudable, (35:15)

he would attain freedom from need of both the worlds and his heart would become so free from need that the kingdom of Solomon would have no worth in his eyes. If the keys of the earth's treasures be offered to him, he would be indifferent to that offer, as narrated in tradition that when Gabriel brought from God, the Exalted, the key to the world's treasures to the Seal of the Prophets-may God's benediction be upon him and his Family-he declined them out of humility, considering his poverty to be his pride. The Commander of the Faithful-may peace be upon him-said to Ibn `Abbas, "This world of yours has lesser worth in my eyes than this old shoe of mine which is full of patches." The Imam `Ali ibn al-Husayn-may peace be upon him-says: "It is a matter of disdain for me to ask the world's Creator to do me a mundane favour, to say nothing of asking it of other creatures like myself."

Out of the common lot, Najm al-Din Kubra, after swearing some formidable oaths, declares: "If the world's wealth as well as the other world's Paradise with its houries and palaces be offered to me on condition that I should associate only with the rich and wealthy, and if the world's adversities and those of the Hereafter be offered to me together with association with the poor-given this choice I will select the company of the poor and will not surrender myself to the disgrace of associating with the rich and `The Fire is better than, dishonour.' "

Yes, they know well the nature of the darkness and rust formed in the heart as a result of attachment to worldly treasures and riches and due to the company and association with those who possess these. They know how these weaken the will and afflict the heart with need and poverty, making it inattentive to the Centre of absolute perfection. But when you surrender the heart to its Owner and this house to its Master, abstaining from making any dispensation in it, turning away from it all strangers, and refraining from handing it over to an usurper, the Master of the house will reveal Himself therein. The presence in it of the absolutely All-sufficient will bring absolute self-sufficiency, immersing the heart in the ocean of honour and contentment and filling it with freedom from need:

Yet honour belongs to God, arid to His Messenger and the faithful. (63:8)

Then, the affairs of. the house are managed by its Master and one is not left to one's own devices(gadgets). He takes care of all the matters of Isis servant, or, rather, He becomes his hearing, vision and limbs, and this nearness is the outcome of the nawafil as mentioned in this tradition of al-Kafi:

In al-Kafi, (al-Kulayni reports) with his isnad from Abu Ja'far-may peace be upon him-that in ahadith qudsi God says: "...And verily he seeks nearness to Me through the .means of the nawafil,until I love him. And when I love him, I become the hearing with which he hears and the vision with which he beholds, and the tongue with which he speaks, and the hand by which he grasps ...." (and so on, until the end of the hadith) [24]

Thus the servant's poverty is totally removed and he becomes free from the need of both the worlds. Of course, in this revelation of the Divine (within the heart), the fear of all the existents is removed from him, giving its place to the fear of God, the Exalted, Whose Greatness and Majesty fills the entire heart of the devotee, who no longer sees any greatness, majesty or efficiency in anything other than God, having perceived in his heart the fact signified by this statement:

There is nothing that is efficient in the realm of being except Allah.

There is a reference to this point in the hadith under exposition, where it says: 'Empty yourself for My worship so that I may fill your heart with ghina.' This `emptying' of the heart for the sake of worship may gradually lead one to the higher degrees of heart's concentration in worship.

These are the effects, some of which have been mentioned. Should the heart turn away from attention to God and fail to achieve the detachment necessary for paying attention to Him, such a neglect would be the source of all forms of wretchedness, defects and diseases of the heart. If that happens, a darkness and obscurity will grip the heart on account of this neglect, and thick curtains through which the light of guidance cannot pass will become an obstruction between it and God, depriving it of Divine succour and making the heart totally absorbed in the world and the pursuit of corporeal pleasures. Then he will be enveloped by the walls of egoism and egotism. The soul will become self-willed and its movements(bustle) will become subject to its egoism. Thereupon, its essential baseness and its real poverty will become manifest; all its movements and pauses will lead it further away from God, and total failure and defeat(thwarted) will be its lot. The noble tradition refers to some of these consequences where it declares, `I will fill your heart with preoccupation with the world and I will not block the entry of poverty and need into it, and I will leave you to your own devices(gadgets).'

A Last Point:

It should be known that that which is meant by forsaking a creature to its own devices does not mean delegation of its affairs to itself, for such a thing is impossible from the viewpoint of the mystical creed and the metaphysical doctrine, in addition(adding up) to being contrary to the true religious doctrine. No existent can dissociate itself from the realm of Divine power and dispensation, and neither can it have (total) freedom to direct its own affairs. When a creature turns away from God and becomes absorbed in the world, carnal nature begins to rule over it and it is dominated by egoism, and autistic, self-seeking and narcissistic tendencies direct his conduct. And this is what is meant by leaving it to its own devices. However, a servant whose heart is turned towards God and the higher malakut and is totally submerged in the Divine light, all its dispensations assume a godly character or, rather, at certain levels, his entire being becomes divine, as alluded to in the noble tradition of al-Kafi that. refers to some of these stations while hinting at the nearness attained through supererogatory acts of worship. And God is All-knowing.

[1]. Al-Kulayni, Usul al-Kafi, ii, "kitab al-'iman wa a1-kufr', "bab al-`ibadah", hadith no. 1.

[2]. Furu` al-Kafi, iii, 269.

[3]. Ibid., iii, 270.

[4]. Ibid., iii, 363.

[5]. Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, iv, 688.

[6]. Ibid., iv, 687.

[7]. Ibid., iv, 685.

[8]. Ibid., iv, 686.

[9]. Mafatih al-jinan, "al-Munajat al-Sha'baniyyah."

[10]. Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, iv, 686.

[11]. Ibid., iv, 688

[12]. Usul al-Kafi, "kitab al-tawhid", "bab al-'iradah, annaha min sifat al-fi'l' hadith no. 4.

[13]. Al-Ghazali, Ihya' 'ulum al-Din, iv, 256.

[14]. Falah al-sa'il, 107.

[15]. See Furuzanfar, Ahadith-e Mathnawi. 39.

[16]. Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, iii, 90, with a slight difference of wording.

[17]. Usul al-Kafi, ii, "Kitab al-'imam wa al-kufr" "bab idkhal al-surur `ala al -mu'minin"hadith no. 8.

[18]. Al-Shaykh al-Bahai, al- Arba'in, p. 202, see the commentary on the thirty third hadith.

[19]. Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, ii, 54.

[20]. Author's note: As to the words of the Imam that which is meant by the noble tradition is that, as mentioned in other traditions, the amount of a prayer that ascends to God and is accepted by Him is that which is offered with an attentive heart. Hence the words refer to the ratio, not to the amount that ascends. It is probable that by here is meant tranquillity and softness of the heart, as remarked by al-Jawhari.

[21]. Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, iii, 54.

[22]. Al-Shaykh al-Mufid, al-'Irshad, 255-256.

[23].Ibid., 256.

[24]. Usul al-Kafi, ii, "kitab al-'iman wa al-kufr" "bab man adha al-muslimin" hadith no. 8.

With my chain of transmission reaching up to the Thiqat al-'Islam Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni-may God have mercy upon him-from Muhammad ibn Yahya, from Ahmad ibn Muhammad, from Muhammad ibn Khalid and al-Husayn ibn Sa'id, and both of. them from al-Qasim ibn Muhammad, from `Abd al-Samad ibn Bashir, from someone from among his companions, who reports from Abu `Abd Allah-may peace be upon him-stating: "I said to him (i.e, al-'Imam al-Sadiq), `Aslahahallah!(`May God set you right'). (Is it true that) if anyone loves meeting God (liqa' Allah), God too loves to meet him, and if someone should dislike the meeting with God, God too dislikes(detest) to meet him?' `Yes,' replied the Imam. I said, `Indeed, by God, we detest death.' The Imam said, `It is not as you imagine. That refers to the time of confrontation with death. At that moment when he sees (as lying in store for him) what he loves, there is nothing dearer to him than to go forth towards God. Coil, the Exalted, loves to meet him and he, too, loves to meet God. But if he sees (as lying in store for him) what he detests, nothing is more abominable to him than meeting God, and God too loathes to meet him. '" [1]

Exposition:

Aslahakallah is a prayer of blessing, and in a benediction it is not necessary that the addressee be devoid of the blessing wished for him. Rather, such benedictive expressions are quite customary, even if what is invoked be already there. Hence, to pray for al-'Imam al-Sadiq-may peace be upon him-wishing his welfare and betterment is not something contrary to common custom. Thus it is also correct to say `May God forgive you' (ghafarallahu lak) and `May God pardon you' (`afallahu `ank) in regard to those sacred personages. Some (exegetes) have interpreted the noble verse:

 

...that God may forgive thee thy former and thy latter sins..., (48:2)

in the same sense, stating that it is like saying to someone `May God forgive you', and it is not necessary in such benedictive expressions to take into consideration that the addressee already possesses the blessing invoked in the prayer. Although such an interpretation seems farfetched in relation to this noble verse-and we have already discussed it under one of the earlier traditions'[2]-it is basically right that mostly the actual possession of that which is invoked in such precative expressions is not taken into consideration.and signify its stronger degrees. Briefly, love and hate are qualities of the soul (sifat-e nafsaniyyah) and are opposite to each other. Their reality, as revealed by self-examination, is evident, like all other directly experienced and psychic qualities, whose essential reality is more evident than what any description of their meaning (i.e. of the words that stand for them) can divulge. However, an explanation of the signification of the ascription of `love' and `hate' to God's Sacred Essence will be given later on, insha' Allah.

As to the narrator's statement, "Indeed, we detest death," he said that because he imagined death to involve liqa' Allah, or because he thought that death was liqa' Allah itself. So he imagined revulsion for death to be aversion for liqa' Allah, and hence his question. The Imam answered him that the general dislike of death is not a criterion; rather, the criterion is the actual moment of death when one observes the signs of the malakut and the other realms.

As to the words of the Imam-may peace be upon him: this sentence does not have an exact equivalent expression in Persian. The import of this expression here may be conveyed by such Persian expressions as or and so on, and the Arabic expression also implies a `going' (dhahab) of the imagination (wahm). Arabic is replete with such expressions. Rather the common usage of`dhahab' and expressions derived from it implies a dhahab of wahm, `aqidah ( belief ) and the like, and the word `madhhab' (going, trend, opinion, religion, creed, ideology, school of law or thought) denotes a similar meaning, which is based on metaphor, for it is derived from external and outwarddhahab.

As to the statement of the Imam-may peace be upon him- mu'ayanah is a verbal noun pertaining to the form (The lexicographers explain its meaning as follows:)

The time of death is called mu'ayanah (viewing, examination, observation), because the dying person views the signs of the other world clearly. His hidden spiritual eye opens and a little of the reality of the malakut is revealed to him. Then he sees glimpses of his own attainments, works and (spiritual) condition. We shall explain in the course of a few sections that which needs exposition in the sacred tradition, putting our reliance in God.

1. Liqa' Allah and Its Character:

Know that the number of verses and traditions which refer to liqa' Allah, either explicitly or implicitly, is quite large and their full details cannot be contained in this brief exposition. However, we shall briefly refer to some of them, and anyone seeking further details should refer to the Risaleh-ye liqa' Allah of the marhum gnostic of God, al-Hajj Mirza Jawad Tabrizi-may God sanctify his soul-wherein traditions concerning this theme have been gathered to a certain extent.

Know that some `ulama' and exegetes have totally blocked the path of liqa' Allah and denied (die possibility of) direct experience of the revelations (tajalliyat) of the Divine Names and Essence. Imagining that they were affirming the transcendence of the Sacred Essence as lying beyond all anthropomorphic and physical qualities, they have interpreted all the verses and traditions mentioning liqa' Allah as the encounter with the Last Day and Judgement, its reward and punishment. Although such an interpretation of the general import of liqa' is not very far-fetched in relation to certain verses and traditions, it is certainly(undeniably) an implausible and far-fetched interpretation in relation to some reliable supplications and traditions mentioned in trustworthy books as well as in relation to some well-accepted (mashhur) traditions which have been relied upon by great `ulama'.

One should know that the intent of those who have kept open the path of liqa' Allah and the beatific vision (mushahadah) of Divine Glory and Beauty, is not that it is permissible to fathom the mystery of the Divine Essence or that it is possible to encompass in direct knowledge ('ilm huduri) and in immediate spiritual experience the Essence, which encompasses absolutely everything.

Rather, the impossibility of fathoming the Divine mystery through universal knowledge ('ilm-e kulli) and by the means of rational thought and the impossibility of encompassing It in mystic experience (irfan-e shuhudi) and by the means of esoteric insight is an established matter, to which all people of the intellect (i.e. philosophers) as well as those of mystic knowledge and experience(arbab-e ma`arif wa qulub) are unanimous in agreeing. However, those who claim the possibility of such a station state: Following the attainment of a complete and consummate state of God-fearing(taqwa), a total turning away of the heart from all the worlds and repudiation of both the realms of life (i.e. the pleasures of the world as well as that of the Hereafter), after trampling the heads of egoism and egocentrism under one's feet, and following complete attention and total absorption in God and the Names and Attributes of that Sacred Essence, after immersion in the love and passion for the Sacred Essence, and following austerities of the heart, a purity and burnish is attained by the wayfarer's heart, which receives the revelations of the Names and the Attributes. Thereupon the thick veils that lie between the devotee and the Names and the Attributes are removed and he becomes annihilated in the Names and the Attributes, becoming "attached to the Mightiness of Sanctity and Glory" and attaining complete nearness (tadall'i) to the Essence. In this state, there is no veil between the consecrated soul of the wayfarer and the Truth except the Names and the Attributes.

For some of the wayfarers of the Path, the luminous veil of the Names and the Attributes may also be removed, whereupon they attain to the Hidden tajalliyat of the Essence, beholding themselves attached and close to the Sacred Essence, and, in this vision, they perceive the sustaining encompassment of the Truth (ihateh-ye qayyumi-ye Haqq) and their own essential annihilation(fana'-e dhati). Then, he clearly views his own being, as well as that of all other existents, as a shadow of the Divine Being. As-in accordance with metaphysical proof-there is no veil between God and the First Creature, which is non-material and free from all forms of matter and attachments (rather, according to metaphysical proofs there is no veil for non-material beings in general), so is die heart that in its expansive and encompassing character has been elevated to the plane of non-material beings. Rather, it walks on the heads of those beings and there is no veil for it, as mentioned in this sacred tradition reported in al-Kafi and al-Tawhid:

Verily, the spirit of the possessor of faith is more firmly attached to the Spirit of Allah than the sun's ray is attached to it. [3]

In the Munajat Sha`baniyyah, which are accepted as authentic by the `ulama' and whose very contents bear witness to the authenticity of their origin in those sacred personages (i.e. the Imam of the Ahl al-Bayt -may peace be upon them), this is how they supplicate:

My God, grant me perfect absorption in Thee and illumine the sight of our hearts with the light of its vision of Thee, until the sight of the hearts pierces the veils of the light and reaches the stores of Majesty and our spirits become attached to the Mightiness of 'My Sanctity.

My God, make me one of those whom Thou callest and who respond to Thee, whom Thou regardest and who swoon with awe before Thy Glory, and to whom Thou whisperest secretly and who act for Thy sake openly. [4]

And while recounting the heavenly ascension (miraj) of the Noble Messenger-may God's benedictions be upon him and his Household -God declares in the Noble Divine Scripture:

Then drew near and suspended hung, two bows' length away or nearer .... (53:8-9)

This direct experience of extinction (fana') is not contrary to the impossibility of fathoming and encompassing (the Divine Essence), nor does it conflict with the verses and traditions that assert Divine transcendence. Rather, it supports and conforms them.

Now see if there is any need to take resort in such far-fetched and insipid interpretations. Can one interpret this statement of Amir al-Mu'minin-may peace be upon him-when he says:

Even if it be supposed that I would be able to bear 'My chastisement, how shall I bear the pain of Thy separation? [5]

and those lamentations and wailings of the awliya' as being for the sake of houris and palaces? Shall we explain the laments of separation of those who used to declare that "we don't worship God for the fear of hell, nor for the desire of paradise, but we worship him as free men should , purely because God is worthy of worship" as being on account of separation from paradise and its foods, drinks and pleasures? Alas! What a preposterous thing to say, and what a most unseemly interpretation! Is it possible to say that the revelations of Divine Beauty on the Night of the Ascent, in the meeting wherein no other creature was present and of whose secrets even Gabriel, the one entrusted with the Revelation, was kept out, were represented by Paradise and its raised-up mansions? That these constituted `the lights of Divine Majesty and Glory' and the disclosure of God's favours? Were the tajalliyat experienced by the prophets-may peace be upon them-as mentioned in reliable supplications, bounties of the order of foods, drinks, gardens and castles?

Alas! We, wretches entrapped in the dark veils of corporeal nature and entangled in the chains of petty hopes and expectations, understand nothing except food, drink, sex and the like. And should we come across a man of vision and someone with a heart who attempts to heave the curtain from these veils, we consider it an error and affront. As long as we remain imprisoned in the dark pit of the world of mulk, we would not be able to apprehend anything of the gnostic teachings (ma'arif)and the experiences of those adept in them. So, my dear, don't compare the awliya' to yourself and don't imagine the hearts of the prophets and those of the people of the ma'arif to be like these dismal hearts of ours. Our hearts are covered with the dusts of attachment to the world and its mundane lusts. The impurity resulting from immersion in lusts does not allow them to become the mirror of Divine revelations wherein the beauty of the Beloved is reflected. Of course, with this egoism, this self-seeking and narcissism of ours, we shouldn't be able to make out anything of thetajalliyat of God, the Most Exalted, and His Beauty and Glory. Given this state of ours, we should be such ones as refute the words of the awliya' and the people of marifah, and even if we should refrain outwardly from denouncing them as false, we would still consider them false in our hearts. And should there be no way for negating their truth-as when one is convinced of the truth of the statements of the Messenger and the Infallible Imams, may peace be upon them-we would open the door of ta'wil and interpretation and, in a word, block the door to the knowledge (marifah) ofGod. Thus we interpret this (saying of 'Ali):

I did not see a thing without beholding God with it, before it, and in it,

as implying the vision of the effects (of God's omnipotence). We explain (these words of `Ali-may peace be upon him):

I did not worship a Lord that I did not see, [6]

as implying the knowledge of universals, similar in nature to our own knowledge. We interpret the verses mentioning liqa' Allah as signifying the encounter with the Day of Judgement, and take the tradition (of the Prophet-may God's benedictions be upon him and his Household):

I have a state with God ...,

as signifying a tender feeling of the heart, and the words of the supplication:

And bestow upon me the vision of 'Thy Noble Face,

and all the lamentations of the awliya' and their wails of separation as arising from the pain of separation froth the houris of paradise and its fowl! And the reason behind all these interpretations is that we are not champions of this field; we understand nothing except bestial and bodily pleasures, and our nescience prompts us to repudiate all the ma arif. This denial is the worst of all calamities, which locks upon us the door to all the higher teachings, keeps us from seeking, and make us remain satisfied at the level of bestial and beastly existence, depriving us of entry into the hidden realms and obstructing us from Divine lights. It keeps us, wretched ones that we are, totally deprived from experiencing the tajalliyat-even from faith in the reality of these spiritual states, a faith which by itself constitutes a degree of spiritual merit and which might have taken us somewhere.

We even evade the (theoretical) knowledge which might have served as the seed of (mystic) experience, and completely close our eyes and ears, stuffing the cotton of neglect into our ears lest a word of truth should enter them. If we hear any of the truths from the mouth of a passionate'arif or a heart-broken wayfarer, or a theosopher (hakim-e muta'allih ), immediately we make him the target of all kinds of curses and insults, calling him an apostate and a profligate, refraining not from any kind of slander and backbiting in regard to him, because our ears cannot bear to hear his words and self-love prevents us from realizing our own inadequacies. Alas, we bequeath a book aswaqf, binding its user with the condition that he should curse, hundred times a day, the mathumMulla Muhsin Fayd (Kashani)! We call Sadr al-Muta'allihin (Mulla Sadra), who is the foremost of the adherents of tawhid, a heretic (zindiq) and do not stop at any insult in regard to him. There is no trace of any inclination towards Sufism in all of his books. Rather, he has written a book entitledKasr asnam al jahiliyyah fi al-radd `ala al-Sufiyyah ("Demolition of the idols of the Jahiliyyah, on the refutation of the Sufis"); yet we call him "a Sufi through and through." We leave those who are of a known character and have been cursed by the tongues of God and His Messenger-may God's benedictions be upon him and his Household-and call down curses upon those who loudly proclaim their faith in God, in the Messenger and the Imams of guidance-may peace be upon them. I know that these curses and insults do not spoil their station in the least, or, rather, perhaps, increase their fair reward with God and cause the elevation of their degrees. But these things are injurious for ourselves and may result in depriving us of Divine assistance and bring about our failure.

Our shaykh, an accomplished `arif that he was (i.e. Shahabadi) may my soul be his ransom-used to say: "Never call down curses (la`n) on anybody, though he be a kafir concerning whom you do not know how he made the transit from this world to the next, and unless an infallible wali informs you concerning his condition after death. For it is possible that he may have attained faith before the time of death. Hence let your curse be of a general character."

Here is one who has such a sacred spirit that he would not permit anyone who has died an apparent unbeliever to be insulted(offended), for the probability that he might have d faith at the time of death, and there are the like of us! And only to God do I take my complaint ( )that the preacher of a certain city, though a man of learning and merit, used to say in the presence of scholars and the learned that so and so "used to read the Qur'an despite being a metaphysician." It is like saying, "So and so believed in God and Resurrection despite being a prophet"! I, too, do not put much of a store by mere knowledge, and a learning that does not bring faith with it is the greatest of veils. However, one has to approach a veil in order to tear it into shreds.

The sciences are seeds of (spiritual) experience. Although it is possible, at times, that one may attain to higher spiritual stations without encountering the veils of learned jargon and the sciences, but such a thing is unusual, contrary to the wont of natural law and happens only rarely. Hence, the way to God-seeking is that one should at the outset devote his time to the remembrance of God and the knowledge of God and the Names and Attributes of that Sacred Essence, the usual way from the adept (mashayikh) of that science. Then, by the means of theoretical and practical exercises and austerities, he should open his heart to the ma'arif, and this will undoubtedly yield results. If he is not one of those familiar with the learned jargon, he can obtain results through the remembrance of the Beloved and by preoccupying his heart and mind with that Sacred Essence. Of certain, this preoccupation of the heart and inward attention will become the means of his guidance, and God, the Exalted, will assist him. The concealing curtains will rise from before his eyes and he will somewhat retreat, from those vulgar forms of skepticism. And, perhaps, he may find his way to the ma'arif with the special grace of God Almighty. Indeed He is the Lord of bounties ().

 

2. Death-The Moment of Truth:

This sacred tradition indicates that at the time of confronting death some of his stations and conditions become revealed to man. This matter is in conformity with a kind of metaphysical proof and in agreement with the experience of mystics as well as with traditions and other reports. As long as man is preoccupied with the cultivation of this mundane realm and the face of his heart is turned towards this habitat and the intoxicant of carnal nature has made him unconscious and the opiates of lust and power stupefy him, he remains totally in the dark concerning the (malakuti)forms of his conduct and morals and blind to their effects in the malakut of the heart. But when the reelings of death and its pressures seize him, he attains a measure of detachment from this world. And if he is a man of faith and of conviction whose heart has been turned towards these realms, at the last moments his heart naturally turns towards that world and the spiritual inductors and the angels of God assigned over it (i.e. the heart) also induct him towards that world. After this induction and that detachment, a part of the world of barzakh is revealed to him and a window to the world of the Hidden is opened upon him. Then his own state and station is disclosed to him to some extent, as is narrated from Amir al-Mu'minin-may peace be upon him that he said:

It is prohibited that any soul should leave this world without, knowing whether it belongs to the people of paradise or the people of hell.? [7]

In this context, there is a sacred tradition which we will mention in its entirety despite its length because it contains good news for the adherents of the wilayah of the Master of the Masters (Mawla al-mawali, i.e. 'Ali ibn Abi Talib) and those holding on to the skirts of the magnanimity of the Infallible Ahl al-Bayt-may peace be upon them. This hadith has been narrated by the venerable Fayd Kashani in his book Ilm al-yaqin:

It is narrated in the Book of al-Husayn ibn Said al-'Ahwazi, from `Abbad ibn Marwan that he said: "I heard Abu 'Abd Allah-may peace upon him-say: `By God, your works will be accepted and your sins will be forgiven. There is nothing that intervenes between anyone of you and his becoming the object of envy and his seeing the delight and experiencing the

 reassurance

of your eyes except the moment when your soul reaches this point.' And saying this he pointed with his hand to his throat. Then he-may peace be upon him-said: `And when that moment arrives, at the time of death, the Messenger of Allah-may Allah's benedictions be upon him and his House-hold-`Ali, the Imams, Gabriel, Michael and the Angel of Death-may peace be upon them-become present before him. Then Gabriel [8]-may peace be upon him-approaches him and says to the Messenger of Allah-may Allah's benedictions be upon him and his Household: "This one used to love you, Ahl al-Bayt, so hold him dear." Whereupon the Messenger of Allah-may Allah's benedictions be upon him and his Household-says: "O Gabriel, indeed this one used to love God, His Messenger and his Household, and I (too) hold him dear." Then Gabriel says (to the Angel of Death): "O Angel of Death, this one used to love Allah, His Messenger and the Household of the Messenger, so hold him dear and be gentle to him."

"`Then the Angel of Death-may peace be upon him-says (to the dying person): "O creature of God, have you secured your release and your security and amnesty? Did you hold on to the great handhold in the life of the world," Whereupon, with God's succour, he declares: "Yes". "What is it? " The Angel of Death asks him. "(It is) the wilayah of 'Ali ibn Abi Talib-may peace be upon him," He replies. The Angel says, "You have told the truth. God has granted you security from what you were frightened of and you have attained what you used to hope for. Receive the good news of the companionship of the righteous predecessors and of the Messenger of Allah-may Allah's benedictions be upon him and his Household-and the Imams of his progeny-may peace be upon them."

"`Then he gently withdraws his soul and brings down his shroud from paradise, and his balm (hunut) is that of fragrant musk. Then he wraps him in that shroud and embalms him with thathunut and clothes him in a yellow dress from among the garments of paradise. Then, when he is laid in his grave, a door from among the doors of paradise is opened for him and its freshness and fragrance enters upon him. Then he is told, "Sleep, like the sleep of a bride on her bed. Receive the glad news of the freshness and fragrance of the Garden of bounties and of an unwrathful Lord. "'

"Al-'Imam al-Sadiq-may peace be upon him-continued: `And when an unbeliever encounters the moment of death, the Messenger of Allah-may Allah's benedictions be upon him and his household-`Ali, the Imams, Gabriel, Michael and the Angel of Death-may peace be upon them-become present before him. Then Gabriel approaches him and says: "O Messenger of Allah, verily this one used to detest you, Ahl al-Bayt, so hold him in resentment." Thereupon the Messenger of Allah-may Allah's peace and benedictions be upon him and his Household-says: "O Gabriel, indeed this one used to hate God, His Messenger and the Messenger's Household, so you too be resentful towards him." Thereat Gabriel declares: "O Angel of Death, indeed this one used to hate God, His Messenger and the Household of His Messenger -may peace be upon them-so you too be resentful of him and be harsh towards him. "

"`Then the Angel of Death approaches the dying person and says: "O creature of God, did you secure your release and your security and amnesty? Did you hold on to the great handhold in the life of the world? " He answers: "No". Whereupon the Angel of Death tells him: "O enemy of God! Receive the tiding of God's wrath and of His punishment and fire. You have lost what you hoped for and that which you used to be afraid of has descended upon you." Then the Angel draws his soul violently and hands it over to three hundred devils who throw their spittle on his face and he is tormented with its stench. And when he is laid in his grave, a door from among the doors of hell is opened for him and its blaze and flames enter upon him."" [9]

It should be known that the barzakh of everyone is representative of his condition on the Day of Resurrection and that the world of barzakh is an intermediate world between this world and the world of Resurrection, where there is a window opening towards paradise or hell, as mentioned in this noble tradition. The famous prophetic tradition:

The grave is either a garden from among the gardens of paradise or a pit from among the pits of the Fire, [10]

refers to the same matter. Hence, at the time of death and confrontation with it, man observes the effects and forms of his works and hears the news of paradise or hell from the Angel of Death. And when these things become revealed to him, he also observes the effects produced by his works and deeds in his heart, such as luminosity and expansiveness and openness of the breast, or their opposites such as darkness and constriction of the breast and its narrowness. Then, when confronted with barzakh, the heart becomes prepared to experience the subtle breezes of Divine Grace and Beauty in it. Therein emerge the signs of the tajalliyat of Divine Grace and Beauty if he is a man of faith and felicity. Then the desire for liqa' Allah emerges in his heart and the fire of yearning for the Beloved's Beauty is lit in it, if he had partaken of virtuous conduct, love and Divine passion, and none except God knows what delights and beneficences lie in this tajalli and desire.

If he had been one of the faithful and the righteous, he will be bestowed of the beneficence of God, the Exalted, in proportion to his faith and good works and he will get an immediate glimpse of it at the time of death. 'Thereupon, the eagerness for death and encounter with Divine beneficence arise in him and he leaves this world with delight and ecstasy and in relief and freshness. The corporeal eyes and the earthly organs of taste do not have the strength to bear the pleasures of this ecstasy and delight.

But if he should be one of the wretched, an infidel, an unbeliever or a hypocrite, and perpetrator of ugly and evil deeds, he will, in accordance with the measure of his evil share and misconduct in the world, discover the effects of Divine Wrath and Might and see the abode of die wretched. Such terror and convulsions will seize him that nothing will be more hateful for him than the revelations of Divine Glory and Might. As a result of this hate and hostility, he will experience such an affliction, anguish, darkness and pain that none except God's Sacred Essence can know the extent of its intensity. This is for persons who have in this world repudiated the truth and been hypocrites and enemies of God and His awliya'. A representative part of the hell becomes revealed also to the sinners and those guilty of major sins in proportion to the evil character of their misconduct, and in this state there is nothing more loathsome for them than to leave this world. And so they are transferred from it violently and harshly, with hardship and pain, and such a regret grips their hearts that it knows no measure.

This description shows that at the time of death man beholds that which had been in him and of which he was unaware. At that time the tips of the concealed part of his being become visible to him. The life of the world was a concealing curtain that hid our defects and was a veil for the people of the ma`arif. Now that this curtain has been lifted and this veil has been removed, man observes a representative part of that which lay in him and that which he himself had prepared. In the other realms man will not face any punishment or chastisement except on account of that which he earns in this world. He will have a direct vision of the (malakuti) forms of the righteous works and virtuous conduct that he had performed and the right convictions that he had held in this world, together with the gifts that God will bestow upon him out of His own favour and munificence. Under the noble verse:

And whoso has done an atom's weight of good shall see it and whoso has done an atom's weigh t of evil shall see it, (99: 7-8)

the following statement (of Ibn Mas'ud) is quoted in Tafsir al-Safi from Majma'al-bayan: [11]

It is the `firmest' of the verses of the Qur'an, and the Messenger of Allah-may Allah's benedictions be upon him and his Household-used to call it "al jami'ah. "

Hence we should know that if we cultivate the love of God, the Exalted, and His awliya' in this world and put on the collar of obedience to that Sacred Essence around our necks and receive the burnish of Divine light in our hearts, at the time of death this inward reality will be revealed to us in its beautiful (malakuti) form. Contrarily, if our hearts take on a mundane aspect and turn away from God, the seed of the enmity of God and the awliya' may come to be gradually sown in them. Then, at the sight of death, this enmity will reveal its intensity and divulge its terrible and strange qualities, as you have seen.

Hence one of the most important things for man is to take care to cultivate a Divine state in the heart and orient its face toward God, His awliya', and the abode of His favour. This can be attained by contemplating the bounties and favours of the Sacred Essence and devoting oneself to His obedience and worship. But one should not rely upon oneself and one's works. At all times, especially in moments of solitude, one must tearfully and humbly implore God to put His love in his heart and to illuminate his heart with the light of His knowledge and love, purging it of the love of the world and of everything other than Him. Of course, this prayer is a substanceless and verbal exercise in the beginning, for it is very difficult to desire the removal of the world's love from one's heart when it is full of intense love for it. But after a period of contemplation, perseverance, and making the heart understand the fair results of the love of God and the evil results of the love of the world, it is hoped that it will be realized, God willing.

3. The Significance of `Love' and `Hate' when Ascribed to God:

Know that love, hate and the like, which in the language of the Qur'an and noble traditions have been ascribed to God-exalted is His Glory-are not to be taken in their ordinary sense. For such qualities signify psychic affections (infi'al-e nafsani), and God, the Exalted, is above and free of them. Since an elaborate discussion of this issue is outside the scope of this brief exposition, we will confine ourselves to a passing reference.

It should be known that there are in man qualities and states which on descent from the Hidden and non-material realms and on reaching the realm of corporeal nature-which is the realm of differentiation (farq), or rather that of differentiation within differentiation (farq al-farq)-assume a form which is different from that of the Hidden immaterial forms in its effects and properties. Thus the Platonists consider all material existents to be manifestations of Hidden spirits and to be reflections of celestial realities and analogies of the Platonic Ideas. They hold that the essential archetypes of the accidents and qualities-which have a non-substantial existence in this world- exist by themselves in that world (as independent substances). On this basis, we may say that the archetypes of these qualities and states, which in the corporeal world are accompanied with an affective and variable character, have an ideal form free of all inadequacies in the Hidden immaterial realms, especially in the world of Divine Names and the station of Unity. The meanings of the terms when referred to the immaterial realm, or the Divine plane, is different from those in this world. For instance, should the tajalliyat of Beneficence (rahmaniyyah), Mercy (rahimiyyah), whichare also called tajalliyat of Beauty (jamal), Gentleness (lutf), Love (hubb) and Intimacy (uns), be manifested in this world, they would take the form of love, mercy and gentleness that are accompanied by affection (infi'al), and this is due to the extremely narrow character of this world. It is mentioned in a hadith that out of hundred portions of Divine Mercy (rahmah) only one portion has been sent down in this world that comprises all the manifestations of compassion that find actualization in this world, such as the compassion between children and parents and the like. Similarly, the tajalliyat of Divine Compulsion (qahriyyah) and Mastership (malikiyyah), which belong to the tajalliyat of Glory (jalal), are manifested in this world in the form of hatred (bughd) and rage(ghadab).

To sum up, the inward aspect of love, hatred, and anger is Divine Compassion and Omnipotence and the tajalliyat of Beauty and Glory, which exist by themselves and in which change, affection and multiplicity do not find any way. Thus the loves and antipathies that exist in this world are manifestations of Divine Compassion and Omnipotence, and since a manifestation (mazhar)depends on that which it manifests (zahir) and since the zahir is revealed in the mazhar, it is not improper to apply the same terms to the two of them. On this basis, the hatred of God, the Exalted, towards a creature is manifestation of Omnipotence and Vengeance, and His love manifestation of Compassion and Munificence. And God is the All-knowing.

[1]. Al-Kulayni, Furu' al-Kafi; iii, 134.

[2]. See the exposition of the twenty-first hadith.

[3]. Usul al-Kafi, ii, "Kitab al-'iman wa al-kufr", "bab ukhuwwat al-mu'minin", hadith no. 4.

[4]. Mafatih al jinan, "Munajat Sha'baniyyah".

[5]. Ibid., "Du'a' Kumayl".

[6]. Al -Shaykh al-Saduq, Kitab al-Tawhid, 305.

[7]. Fayd al-Kashani, Ilm al yaqin, ii, 853.

[8]. This sentence of the tradition is narrated in the following form in its version of Furu `al-Kafi, iii, p. 131: "Then 'Ali-may peace be upon him-approaches him and says: "O Messenger of Allah, this one used to love us, Ahl al-Bayt, so hold him dear," and the Messenger of Allah-may God's benedictions be upon him and his Household-says: O Gabriel .... " Later in this narration-which is more reliable and precise-it is 'Ali who says to the Prophet, "O Messenger of Allah, this one used to hate us, Ahl al-Bayt, so hold him in resentment." (Trans.)

[9]. 'Ilm al-yaqin, ii, pp. 854, 856.

[10]. Sunan al-Tirmidhi, iv, 640, "Kitab sifat al-Qiyamah"; al-Jami' al-saghir, i, 63.

[11]. Al-Tabrisi, Majma 'al-bayan (Qumm 1403), v, 527.


source : Forty Hadith by Imam Ruhullah al-Musawi al-Khumayni
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